I caught the Federer vs. Dent match yesterday and thought it was fascinating. (Roger won 6-3.6-2.) Taylor Dent plays an old school serve and volley game – if old school includes 147 m.p.h. serves – that Roger, himself, described as “fun” to play against because it reminded him of when he first came on tour. Although Fed’s 15 minute long service game in the first set couldn’t have been too much fun for him.
For some reason, this match really put Roger Federer in a great mood. Just check out all the happy things he had to say afterwards:
Q. . . .do you think you’ll have to change your game as the years advance and you get more challengers and more tough players?
ROGER FEDERER: I’ve adjusted too over the years. I had to. I used to chip and charge and serve and volley when I was not feeling well from the baseline. I used to serve and volley against Nalbandian, against Agassi, against the greats, you know, of the returning passing shots. You know, I almost came close. And Hewitt as well. Until I realized I had to get my baseline game into great shape. Once I got that going, the whole thing followed. My mental strength got so much better. My the footwork was incredible. That then allowed me to have so many more options.
It’s just now a matter for me of when do I play aggressive and when do I let the other guy play and make mistakes, as well. Right now I feel I found again the right tactics against the right players, you know. All I needed was a few matches, and I got those in Indian Wells. I feel like I’m playing well, and I’m excited about what’s to come.
Q. Obviously for years you were the hunted, No. 1. Do you enjoy the hunting, being on the opposite side of that? Does it entail a change of mind or attitude in any way?
ROGER FEDERER: Umm, not a whole a lot. You know, I mean, I had more of an issue with myself, you know, getting myself back in shape for the last year. That’s been my problem, not really Rafa or Andy or Djokovic, or you name it. Those come naturally if I play well that I can beat these guys. So for me, it was a matter of getting back in shape. I feel like I’m about to turn the corner. Mentally I’m really fresh again after taking a rest in December and February. So I feel like I’m getting better, whereas I couldn’t concentrate that much on tennis. It was more about getting actually back in shape.
Q. At this stage in your career, what do you consider to be more important to you: being No. 1 in the world again or accumulating as many Grand Slams as possible?
ROGER FEDERER: Goes hand in hand, doesn’t it? I guess it’s slams right now, because I’m that close with Pete’s record. I know if I win a Slam, a No. 1 ranking will follow.
This match was a win-win – Taylor Dent also came out of it feeling optimistic about his future, saying:
It’s exciting. I feel like my game is there. As soon as my foot speed and fitness catch up to everything else, then I’m going to be tough to beat. . .I’d love to play him again in a few months when I really get a chance to get my legs under me.
Although if what Roger said is true, this might have been Dent’s best and only chance. . .